I am pleased to announce that another essay on videogames, “Metaproceduralism: The Stanley Parable and the Legacies of Postmodern Metafiction,” just appeared in Wide Screen. The essay is part of a special issue on videogame adaptation, edited by Kevin M. Flanagan, and includes articles by Jedd Hakimi, Cameron Kunzelman, Kyle Meikle, Bobby Schweizer, and Kalervo Sinervo. It’s also open access, so anyone can read it.
Abstract: Most critics of contemporary literature have reached a consensus that what was once called “postmodernism” is over and that its signature modes—metafiction and irony—are on the wane. This is not the case, however, with videogames. In recent years, a number of self-reflexive games have appeared, exemplified by Davey Wreden’s The Stanley Parable(2013), an ironic game about games. When self-awareness migrates form print to screen, however, something happens. If metafiction can be characterized by how it draws attention to its materiality—the artificiality of language and the construction involved in acts of representation—The Stanley Parable draws attention to the digital, procedural materiality of videogames. Following the work of Alexander R. Galloway and Ian Bogost, I argue that the self-reflexivity of The Stanley Parable is best understood in terms of action and procedure, as metaproceduralism. This essay explores the legacies of United States metafiction in videogames, suggesting that though postmodernism might be over, its lessons are important to remember for confronting the complex digital realities of the twenty-first century. If irony may be ebbing in fiction, it has found a vital and necessary home in videogames and we underestimate its power to challenge the informatic, algorithmic logic of cultural production in the digital age to our detriment.
I have just published a review of Ian Bogost’s How to Talk about Videogames (2015),“The Function of Videogame Criticism,” in The b2 Review. The review signals a slightly new direction in my work–toward game studies–and will be the first of three pieces of videogame criticism that will appear in 2016. I have been teaching games for the past few years, so I am excited to be writing about them now.
With the aid of a Course Development Grant from the Office of Undergraduate Studies, this past year I had the chance to develop a new course at the University of Pittsburgh, ENGLIT 1002 Critical Game Studies. As I may not likely get to teach this course anytime soon, I thought I would share the syllabus.
The course’s reading includes Tom Bissel’s Extra Lives (2010), Alexander R. Galloway’s Gaming (2006), Jesper Juul’s The Art of Failure (2013), McKenzie Wark’s Gamer Theory (2007), and many interesting critical essays on play, narratology v. ludology, gender, empire, countergaming, and other related concerns. The majority of games on the syllabus are quite recent, and indie games in particular dominate, including (but not limited to): Between (2008), Braid (2008), Depression Quest (2013), Goat Simulator (2014), Papers, Please (2014), Sunset (2015), and The Stanley Parable (2013).
It’s that time of year when I’m busy busy with all sorts of things. Combined with the miserable weather (it got down to -11° Fahrenheit in Pittsburgh last night), some links have been piling up.
Environment, Science, International, Disaster
Rebecca Solnit, “The Age of Capitalism Is Over.”
Noam Chomsky, “The World of Our Grandchildren.”
Graeme Wood, “What ISIS Really Wants.”
Raymond T. Pierrehumbert, “Climate Hacking Is Barking Mad.”
Sam Kriss, “Manifesto of the Committee to Abolish Outer Space.”
Cari Romm, “How Three People Can Make a Baby.”
Alan Taylor, “What Record-Breaking Snow Really Looks Like.”
I am sad to say that Tomaž Šalamun (1941-2014), one of my most important teachers, has passed away. I have written a short remembrance of him that either will appear here or in some other form.
Christopher Merrill, “Remembering Tomaž Šalamun.”
Andrew Epstein, “Tomaž Šalamun (1941-2014) and the New York School.”
Dalkey Archive Press on Šalamun.
And though I can’t read Slovenian, there is much here, including video of a television report.